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Press Release

Texas Man Pleads Guilty to Tulare County Drug Distribution Conspiracy and Federal Gun Charges

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Malachai Serrano, 31 of San Antonio, Texas, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine and marijuana and using a firearm during and in relation to a drug trafficking crime, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, the charges arose from a long-term investigation that uncovered evidence of a scheme involving the trade of illegal drugs sourced in Mexico and California for firearms sourced in Texas. In 2021, a team of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers partnered in an investigation into a group of Tulare County Surenos street gang members. Part of the investigation focused on Serrano and his associates, who were involved in shipping illegal drugs and firearms across state lines.

Between April 6, 2021, and Dec. 17, 2021, Serrano’s associates, including Jonathan Gallegos, 32, of Ivanhoe, shipped kilograms of marijuana and methamphetamine from post offices in Central California to residences in San Antonio, Texas. Serrano and his associates shipped firearms back to Gallegos and his associates in California as payment for the narcotics they had received. Serrano is a felon who cannot lawfully possess firearms.

This case was the product of an investigation by the  Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office, the Tulare County Area Regencies Gun Enforcement Team, the Visalia Police Department, the California Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation, the California Highway Patrol’s Special Operations Unit, and the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Justin J. Gilio and Antonio J. Pataca are prosecuting the case.

On Oct. 11, 2022, Gallegos pleaded guilty; he is scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, 2023.

Serrano is scheduled to be sentenced May 15, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Ana de Alba. Serrano faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and up to life in prison. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.

This effort is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. On May 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.

Updated February 6, 2023

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Drug Trafficking